By Dave Sweetman
I have a unique gig. Several, actually, and they mesh together fairly well.
I get to race around the country and take cool cars to people who saved their lunch money for that Model A Ford like Grandpa used to have, or the affluent clients waiting for their new Italian exotic.
I am usually appreciated, in that the customers can’t wait to get their new toy. And remembering back to a former life, when I used to truck meat, produce and freight (and get abused and cheated at grocery warehouses), I have learned to appreciate the car customer right back.
Another of my unique gigs is being right here on these pages, where I get to share some of what I do, like, dislike and adventures with the good readers of Land Line. With that comes a great deal of responsibility, and it comes at a bit of a cost. Much like painting a bull’s-eye on my forehead, I make myself a target. Mostly it’s a good thing.
What I also try to do is pass on a bit of good cheer along the way. I fully understand how hard folks work nowadays just to survive and, because the trucking economy has soured, the trickle-down theory of bad vibes can affect everyone.
From those folks in the grease pit doing truck lubes, to the desk clerk behind the counter dealing with crabby drivers, to the toll collectors many love to hate. All of whom are necessary to our jobs of running a truck, but rarely do they get the respect or kind words they deserve. Sometimes a simple “thank you” means a lot. I never miss an opportunity to be polite – as corny as that sounds.
Just a few weeks ago, I stopped to get my oil change, chassis lube and generator service done at the Speedco in Greenwood, LA. After being greeted by the folks there, I was pulled into the bay and my info taken by the nice lady from behind the counter. In the next bay was a sharp-looking Volvo with a cheery husband and wife team with Landstar. We compared notes on business, trucks and the economy.
When I entered the waiting area at the office counter, I noticed the cashier was reading the February issue of Land Line. I pointed out the column on page 88 on Bette Garber, and she turned to the story and made some very nice comments. It took a moment for her to realize that that goof in the photo of the writer was the same goof sitting in front of her.
For the next 20 minutes or so we compared notes on drivers, the economy and how it has affected her business. I also reminded her how much we need her services, and she seemed surprised that anyone would notice. Most do not, I suppose, but I do.
This is my point entirely. Our job is tough some days. Dealing with shippers who want it there yesterday for cheap, fuel and expenses through the roof, crabby dispatchers (not you, Bob), enforcement officers with one hand on your wallet, the list goes on. It can wear on one’s psyche and make one a bit psycho if you let it. I do not allow it. Quite the opposite, as I try to subscribe to the idea that if life hands you lemons … get some more and make lemonade for everybody and we’ll party.
I have found that I can usually turn a tense situation into a friendlier one in about 11.7 seconds with a tilted sense of humor and the desire to leave the place a cheerier one than when I arrived.
Why do I care? Because I have been on the other side of the counter, I have been in the grease pit, I’ve been in the dispatch office, and I have come to learn my trade coming up through the ranks. I also know it makes the day go better and faster with a bit of humor and without a chip on my shoulder, no matter which side of the steering wheel I’m on.
Try it. Maybe you’ll like it. Bet those around you will.
Now pass the lemonade, please. LL
Dave Sweetman can be reached at email@example.com.